First Published: Class Struggle, Vol. 6, No. 5, June 1982
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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The tenth anniversary of the 1972 London school strike falls this year. It is an occasion which deserves to be remembered.
Over period of several weeks, thousands of school students walked out on strike and demonstrated for demands which have been popular with them for decades: no caning, no detentions, no compulsory school uniform, and others. The movement started in West London at Rutherford’s School, and then spread to become an all-London movement. One day 10,000 came out in protest activities.
The force which sparked the strikes and largely led them was the Schools Action Union (SAU).
The ruling class clearly saw the strikes as a serious threat. Schools are institutions where children are indoctrinated with bourgeois ideology; the education system in Britain serves British imperialism, and is intended to produce adults who will serve it with the minimum of questioning. Small wonder then that a press campaign was waged against the SAU, with “shock-horror” headlines like “Classroom Castros Bent on Revolution” appearing; the “Daily Mail” sent a spy along to an SAU organising meeting, and another paper organised the theft of documents from the SAU headquarters. Side by side with this went state repression. The leader of the Labour-controlled Inner London Education Authority sent a letter to all parents in the area, warning them to make their children go to school, police were sent into a number of schools to control the situation, and some heads locked the school students in at breaks so that they couldn’t join the strike. The police arrested many of those they considered to be “ringleaders” and harassed others. It was only by methods such as these that the state was able to put down the movement, but the strikes nevertheless had a lasting influence on many who took part.